The story of British Racing Green.
Ask someone what colour they would choose if they won a MINI and the immediate response is often “British Racing Green”. Why is it that this dark green colour seems to be just as inextricably linked to MINIs as teatime is to England?
The history of British Racing Green, or BRG as it is commonly known, is part and parcel of the history of motor racing. And there is one person in particular who was largely responsible for the rise of the sport: James Gordon Bennet Jr. An American sports afficionado and newspaper publisher, Bennet took it upon himself to organise a motor race at the end of the 19th century. And, just like that, he established the Gordon Bennet Cup in France, which is basically the predecessor to today’s Grand Prix races. So, from 1900 to 1905, the carmakers of Europe raced their hot rods clad in their adopted racing car colours along dusty country roads for the honour of victory and the right to host the following year’s race in their own country.
In 1902 Great Britain’s Selwyn Francis Edge won the Bennet Cup and with it the right for the UK to host the following year’s race. However, this turned out to be impossible, as the speed limit in England was 12 mph – less than 20 km/h – which even at that time was a snail’s pace. So the race had to be moved to Ireland, where there was no speed limit to contend with. And the legend goes that the British racers painted their cars green in homage to the green isle for hosting the race. Exactly what shade of green was used – whether emerald, hunter or moss – is not known. But the story of the possible hour of birth of British Racing Greenreads beautifully in any case.
Interestingly, there is no one specific green known as British Racing Green. Rather, there are a variety of shades of green that carry the name. British racing stables in particular used variations of this colour. BRGreally became well known owing to Formula 1 World Champion Jack Brabham. In 1959 the Australian brought the prestigious title home in a Cooper T51, and then the following year in a Cooper T53. His champion cars sported two white racing stripes down the front, on a green background. His Formula 1 racer was built by the team of motorsport visionary John Cooper, the man who designed and lent his name to the Mini Cooper. Indeed, the Mini, the little speedster, won the Monte Carlo rally three times between 1964 and 1967. For the first of these victories, Paddy Hopkirk and his co-driver Henry Liddon prevailed against the competition and won, in a red and white Mini. The drivers who followed also achieved their victories in red-white Minis, as at that time all work cars shared this design. But for many races in the 1960s the Mini Cooper S was also seen in BRG with white stripes. Another famous win was garnered by John Love in 1962, when his green car won the British Saloon Car Championships, known today as the British Touring Car Championship.
It comes as no surprise then that for its 60th anniversary in 2019 MINI launched a special edition model in British Racing Green with unique anniversary racing stripes down the bonnet. It was – of course – a tribute to race car designer John Cooper, who laid the foundation for this little car’s racing career, and to Alex Issigonis, who created the Classic Mini.
Like the product designers at MINI, the accessories designers also added special touches to the MINI Lifestyle Anniversary Collection. They developed a number of cool and surprising items for everyday use that are also available in Racing Green. Wheeled suitcases and shirts can be bought in the iconic colour, but also caps and footballs have been adorned by it as an accent colour. Not as bright, but just as stylish in the 2020 collection are chic dark green practical travel cases, umbrellas and drinkware.
What new products and special editions will be available in this colour in the future? We will have to wait and see. What we do know is that James Gordon Bennet Jr, who blazed a trail for Grand Prix races with cars featuring national racing colours, would surely have been most pleased with the success of British Racing Green.